For five years, stepping into the football coach's office at the University of Notre Dame was like being swept into a hurricane. The office, small and cluttered with memorabilia, was a constant swirl of activity, most of it focusing on its occupant. Gerry Faust was in, he was out. He was on the phone, he was off it. He clapped one visitor on the back and embraced another in the same motion.
Faust filled rooms with energy and enthusiasm. But he didn't fill up the victory column in the style to which Notre Dame has become accustomed. And so, after five years of turbulence and a 30-26-1 record, he is gone.
Now, all is quiet in the coach's office. Consciously, it would seem, Lou Holtz has tried to make this place as different as he can in the 10 weeks since he was hired at the end of last season. He has knocked down a wall and greatly enlarged the room. His desk sits as far from where Faust's sat as is possible. The walls are temporarily bare.
There are no hugs, no claps on the back. Holtz is all business. He is known as a funny man, a speaker who makes audiences laugh. But now at 48, in the job he has always wanted, he wants the other part of his persona -- the tough football coach -- to dominate.
"I'm insecure about a lot of things. That may be why I try to make people laugh," he said recently. "But I'm very secure about one thing: my ability to coach football."
That is why he is here.
Gerry Faust was a superb coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati until he was plucked from there in 1980 by the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce because he was a winner, a devout Catholic and a man whose enthusiasm seemed the perfect tonic for Notre Dame after six years of the dour Dan Devine.
It might have been, had Faust been able to win, but instead he lost more games than any other coach in school history and spent his last three years under a cloud: Would he resign? Would he be fired? He finally resigned before he could be fired.
"He left peacefully," Joyce said. "What happened to Gerry Faust here was almost a classical tragedy. It was almost painful to watch. He came so close at times it seemed like somebody up there didn't like him."
Joyce grimaced slightly at the irony of his statement. "We like to say here that winning football games is not the primary thing for a football coach at Notre Dame. But we like to win. What you eventually realize is that a man can have all the good qualities as a person that Gerry Faust had and perhaps be a better coach than Gerry Faust.
"I would hope that Lou Holtz stands just as much for the right things as Gerry Faust but might also be a much better coach."
What Holtz certainly has that Faust did not is a proven college record. When Gene Corrigan, Notre Dame's athletic director, began putting together a list of candidates in the fall of 1984 -- thinking that Faust might resign after that season since his team was 3-4 at the time -- he asked Ara Parseghian for advice.
"One thing Ara said stood out," Corrigan said. "He said he thought his 14 years as a head coach really helped him when he came here in 1964. I remembered that." Years of Experience
Holtz has had 17 years as a head coach: three at William and Mary, four at North Carolina State, one with the New York Jets, seven at Arkansas and two at Minnesota. He rebuilt programs at N.C. State and Minnesota, kept a strong one strong at Arkansas and went 3-10 with the Jets before deciding pro football was a mistake with one game left in the season.
He has joked about his peripatetic nature, as have others. He has been controversial: Once, he kicked a professor off the track at N.C. State because he thought he was a "spy." He taped commercials for right wing Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) while at Arkansas and was chastised even though the commercials never aired.
His departure at Minnesota, even though he had an escape clause in his lifetime contract, caused bitterness there. He still is uncomfortable with that episode, as evidenced by the fact that four times in less than two minutes he repeats these words: "I lived up to every commitment I made at Minnesota. Everything was above board."
He stopped, realizing he was repeating himself: "Let's just leave it at that, okay?"
Holtz and Faust have one thing in common: a knack for the malaprop. Once, in discussing quarterback Steve Buerlein's ability to throw with both hands, Faust said, "We always knew that kid was ambiguous." This week, talking about his new job, Holtz said, "I have no grandeurs of illusion about satisfying everyone here."
But there the similarities end. Faust was gregarious by nature, Holtz is quiet. "Lou is an actor," Corrigan said. "He makes people laugh and he entertains them. He gets players excited about playing for him. But underneath he's very quiet, almost shy."
Holtz loves to poor-mouth himself. His now famous self-description -- "I'm 5 feet 10 inches, 152 pounds, I speak with a lisp and appear afflicted with a combination of beriberi and scurvy. I ranked 234 in a class of 278" -- is calculated to disarm. Holtz, born in Follansbee, W.Va., and raised across the river in East Liverpool, Ohio, is street-smart.
Already he is warning people not to expect too much, talking about a murderous schedule, moaning about a lack of linemen and wondering "if we'll even be able to field a team for spring practice."
This routine is the product of years of practice. Holtz knew in high school that he wanted to coach, especially after Wade Watts, one of his coaches, recommended after Holtz's junior year that his parents send him to college with the idea that he might someday be a coach.
"I always could remember things that pertained to football," Holtz said. "Maybe not other things, but football plays, yes. I can still remember that summer going to my grandmother's house in Follansbee and one of my uncles saying, 'So, you're going off to college to be a coach. Do you ever think you'll coach at Notre Dame?'
"And I said no because back then (1953) Notre Dame only hired alumni. But my family, being Catholic, Notre Dame was the school."
Holtz couldn't get into Notre Dame, though (remember, 234 out of 278, 5-10 . . . ) so he went to Kent State. After graduating, he worked his way up through the ranks as an assistant coach before getting his first shot as a head coach at William and Mary in 1969. There, he took the school to its only bowl appearance (Tangerine).
In 1972, he moved to North Carolina State. There, he went to four more bowls before the Jets called. One disastrous year later, Holtz was at Arkansas, and one year after that he drew national attention when he suspended three star players on the eve of the Orange Bowl, withstood a threatened boycott and whipped Oklahoma, 38-6.
"That's when I first noticed him," Joyce said. "I was impressed by the way he stood up for what he thought was right and then kept his team united and went out and won the game. After that, I sort of kept an eye on him."
When it became evident that Faust was not going to survive beyond his original five-year contract, it was Corrigan who did most of the research on a new coach. Joyce, the university vice president, has worked closely with the school's president, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, since 1952, but both priests will retire in 1987 and Joyce felt Corrigan should play a major role in choosing the new coach.
"Gene will be working with him longer than I will," Joyce said. "I still had to make the final decision and I might have disagreed with Gene. But we didn't. We both thought this was the man." Waking Up the Echoes
Their thoughts became actions swiftly. Faust resigned on a Tuesday, and the next day Holtz had the job. That was three days before Faust coached Notre Dame to its disastrous (51-7) finale at Miami.
"We wanted an experienced head coach," Corrigan said. "We wanted someone who wouldn't be intimidated by big bowls, by pressure. We wanted a winner, someone who had worked with college kids.
"We wanted someone who would wake up the echoes.
"The first thing I told Lou when he got here was not to put up pictures of these guys." He pointed behind him to paintings of Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Parseghian.
Wake up the echoes. But don't let them bury you first.
Although Holtz can't resist a good line, there is little doubting his seriousness or his toughness. He has grabbed players' helmets to get their attention, and when his eyes narrow behind his wire-rimmed glasses, it is easy to forget the smile that, along with his sandy-blond hair, often makes him look younger than 48.
If Notre Dame's players doubted that toughness, they quickly learned not to. "Right off the bat he told us we would have our offseason conditioning at 6:15 a.m. twice a week," said Beurlein, the senior-to-be quarterback who has started since midway through his freshman season. "Getting up at that hour is a pain. But I'll tell you one thing, seeing guys getting sick and throwing up really gives you a feeling of unity."
Like the other players, Beurlein handled questions about Faust the past two seasons the way most people handle a fork. "You almost became immune to it because you heard it so often," he said. "But at the end, in critical situations there was this slippage in confidence in ourselves, in the coaches, in everybody. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough." Inevitable Change
Joyce and Corrigan knew this. They knew, much as they liked Faust, that a change was inevitable. "It did get discouraging at the end," Corrigan said. "Expectations were always so high. Now, they're going to be high again. I hope not too high. I hope people won't think just because we have an experienced coach, it will all turn around right away."
Holtz was hired with no qualms about his past. Of the Helms commercial, Corrigan said, "We were hiring a football coach, not a political spokesman. Lou knows he made a mistake."
Joyce remembers being surprised by the amount of mail he received last season in support of Faust. "A lot of our alumni thought Gerry Faust stood for all the things Notre Dame is about and that was enough," he said. "He did. But we also have to think of our players. They spend a lot of time at football, they take it very seriously. They deserve superb leadership there, just like in the classroom."
And so Faust is gone and Holtz is here. Actually, much of the time, Holtz is gone now, trying to round up a top recruiting class. Naturally, he claims it is difficult.
"But it is tough," he insisted. "It's been six years since Notre Dame was in the Top 20. The kids we're recruiting now were in the sixth grade back then."
But everybody knows Notre Dame.
Lou Holtz smiled. "Yeah, they all know the name," he said. "But lately, a lot of them have been mis-spelling it."
No matter how you spell it, Notre Dame doesn't have the magic of five years ago. That's why Lou Holtz is here.
The echoes await.